Review | Twin Blades
Format: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360/iOS | Genre: Zombie Genocide ‘em up | Publisher: Sanuk Games | Developer: Sanuk Games | Release date: 02/02/2011 | Price: 400 MSP
Will Templeton saved one bullet until he’d finished this review of TWIN BLADES.
IN AN environment of mobile games that offer bitesize chunks of entertainment at any time, the iPhone has had huge growth and success. It’s a market that Nintendo has always courted very well, with a stable of games that can be played for either five minutes, or five hours, at a time. It’s also a market Sony hoped to corner with the Minis, a series of games that can be played on both the PS3 and PSP, offering those bitesize moments on a full-featured console for around the price of something you’d find on the App Store. It’s lead to a few great budget titles, and a few ports of popular games, the latest of which is Twin Blades, a side-scrolling zombie-themed score attack game.
Ostensibly very simple, the seemingly short level structure belies a more complex game beneath. Instead of astraightforward level progression, sprinting through and slicing the undead into quarters, each stage is designed to be run through multiple times before progressing to the next stage. It performs a delicate balancing act, forcing you to return to each level in order to earn more zombie kills; kills that become the currency to upgrade your character. You can’t farm one area for too long, however – neglect the entire map for longer than a slowly-progressing game day, and the zombies in the areas you haven’t visited will become stronger and harder to defeat.
This fine line is something that Twin Blades walks throughout. Every single individual part of the game operates under a mechanic of risk versus reward. The various gun upgrades available are powerful, but drain energy, which can only be obtained through risky melee combat – which is also the only way to regain lost health. Every upgradable weapon has a zombie that is resistant to it. Being an ultimate powerhouse seems always just out of reach beyond the next upgrade, but whenever combat feels overwhelming, it almost always feels like your fault rather than the game.
The result is a game that initially appears tedious (and can be, at times – searching out the final few enemies in a level can be a needlessly lengthy process), but quickly becomes both frantic and a wonderful brain-teaser based around the amount of effort and grind required in the earlier levels in order to tackle the later ones, while trying to keep each level active enough that the enemies don’t become too difficult to beat. Mismanage the world and fail to keep it in check, and the game becomes immediately more difficult, inevitably resulting in a tidal wave of zombies that are impossible todeal with at your current state. Even after death, however, the game remembers your kill-count and allows you to purchase upgrades to continue where you left off. The core mechanic here, then, isn’t solely player skill. There’s a certain measure of attrition involved; die enough, and you’ll eventually become powerful enough to continue. The real challenge lies in how far you can progress with as few deaths as possible.
It’s a concept that’s extremely well-suited to mobile gaming, and fits well within the idea of a PlayStation Mini. In fact, it makes little sense outside of that context – this is a game that will satisfy in short chunks during a commute, or in an ad break during your favourite TV show, but it’s not something you’ll sit down and play for hours unless you’re really shooting for the scoreboard. If it fails in any way, it’s that it’s not different enough to the iPhone version to justify double-dipping, but if all you have is a PSP then it comes well-recommended.